In Conversation with Tegan Sadlier

Tegan Sadlier, picture editor on Good Weekend and Sunday Life has been working in the photography industry for nearly 20 years. She has a BA from the University of NSW and then did a brief photography course at the Australian Centre for Photography and began her career as a researcher in a stock photo library. In 1997 Tegan joined Who Magazine as a picture editor and stayed there for 7 years, a year of which was spent working in New York at the Time Inc head office. In 2004 she launched and managed the Australian office of the celebrity photo agencies, WireImage and ContourPhotos and worked briefly at Getty Images after they acquired those agencies in 2007.

Missing the creative side of the business, Tegan returned to picture editing, her passion, at Fairfax Media in 2008.

What inspired you to become a professional photography editor?

Photo editing is a funny job. I started out in the industry as a researcher in a stock library and only then became aware that a photo editor was actually a job. I guess like so many people who fall into this business, I loved pictures, I still do, but I didn’t want to be a photographer as such so was drawn to a job that allowed me to look at photos all day but from the safety of a full time desk in an office.

How did you get your first break?

This tends to be a real “who you know” kind of industry and that’s how I got my first break, which was to join the picture editing team at Who Weekly magazine. I knew someone who knew the photo editor there and she got me in for an interview when one of her staff was being moved to the NY office. Pretty exciting shoes to fill and I was lucky enough to end up working in that NY office myself for a year.

What paths have you taken to get to where you are today?

When I first came to Fairfax, I was employed by an editor I had worked with a number of years earlier at Who, so again, it was a bit of a “who you know” scenario. When I left Who I ran a photo agency for a few years and all the picture editors in Sydney became my clients. It’s very interesting and well rounding to be able to see this business from different sides and having been a client myself, I think I was able to offer them great service and totally understood their needs and wants. Lots of photo editors, myself included, start out working in photo agencies and most of the team who worked for me are all still out there working in the industry in some capacity. Eventually, the business changed and I found myself yearning for the more creative, editorial side of things and started looking to see what was out there. I knew in my heart where I wanted to go, and because I knew the right people, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be.

What advice about the do's and don'ts would you give to an aspiring photography editor?

Photo editors need a good visual sense and a great eye but they also need to be able to get on with lots of different personalities. Diplomacy is a vital skill and should not be underestimated. Editors, art directors, photographers, agents and photo agencies will all pull you in different directions and expect different things from you. Keeping everyone happy and maintaining all those relationships is very important for this job. You need to be able to get the best prices out of the photo agencies. You need photographers to go that extra mile, get up at 4 in the morning and drive 3 hours to a crap job and love you for it. Art directors need every photo you can find on a certain subject and editors assume everything can just be found on Google Images.

My advice is be nice to everyone and a pleasure to work with. If you want to be a photo editor and actually get to work in this profession, you need to know how lucky you are. Give everyone what they need from you with sugar on top and be super organised and thrifty as you go.

Tell us about the magazine you're currently working on and what sets it apart from others?

I work on Good Weekend which is a little bit like the Holy Grail for photo editors in this country because we run such a wide range of different stories, sourcing photography and commissioning shoots all over the world. It’s full on because it’s a big magazine and it comes out every week but there’s no celebrity news, and it’s always interesting.

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